League of Legends World Championship
The League of Legends World Championship is an annual tournament hosted by Riot Games, acting as the culminating event in the League of Legends (LoL) season. The first LoL World Championship was staged back in 2011 at DreamHack in Sweden, with British team Fnatic taking home the spoils. Riot Games commissioned the winner’s trophy, which is now known as the Summoner’s Cup, which weighs in at over 70 pounds. The first World Championship offered a total prize pool of $100,000, which has risen significantly over recent years, with the LoL Worlds 2017 set to be worth over $5 million.
The League of Legends World Championship is made up of 24 teams from around the world, with competition comprising of a play-in, Round 1, Round 2, Group Stage and Knockout Stage. Both Round 1 and Group Stage matches are played in a best of one style, while Round 2 and Knockout Stage matches are played in best of five. The tournament has seen several changes over the years, in terms of prize money, host destinations, competing teams and accessibility for fans, with the ever-increasing demand for League of Legends action only helping to ensure that the event will continue to grow in the future, starting in China in 2017.
Season 1 Championship
A New Era for League of Legends
The inaugural World Championship, known as the Season 1 Championship, took place at the DreamHack Summer in Jonkoping, Sweden between 18-21 June. With a total prize pool of $100,000, the tournament attracted eight teams from North America, South-East Asia and Europe. With over 1.6 million viewers watching live streaming of the event, including a peak figure of over 210,000 during the latter stages, it was British team Fnatic that came away with the win, seeing off against All authority in the final.
Some of League of Legends top teams were involved in the tournament, with Counter Logic Gaming, Epik Gaming, Gamed!de, Team Pacific, Team SoloMid and Xan making up the eight competing organisations. However, after many battles, it was Fnatic and against All authority who were the last two teams standing. Having not suffered a single defeat in the upper bracket, Fnatic were the undoubted favourites heading into the final. Having already been defeated by Fnatic in the opening stages, the final was a step to far for the French organisation, eventually going down by a 2-1 score line. Fnatic would take home a winning prize pool of $50,000, with team SoloMid finishing in third position.
Season 2 Championship
After the success of Season 1, Riot Games announced that the $5 million would be paid out during the Season 2 Championship. $2 million of which went to Riot’s partners, such as the IGN Pro League, whilst another $2 million went to Riot’s Season 2 qualifiers. The remaining funds would be given to the organisers who hosted some of the independent LoL tournaments during the calendar year. The Season 2 Championship was staged in October 2012 in Los Angeles, USA, once again acting as a final competition of the League of Legends campaign. The tournament was comprised of twelve teams, offering a generous prize pool of $2 million, the biggest in the whole of esports at the time.
The latter stages, including group stage, quarter finals and semi-finals took place between October 4-6, with the grand final taking place at the University of Southern California on October 13, in front of over 10,000 fans. With over 8 million esports fans watching on from around the world throughout the competition, including 1.1 million during the grand final, Taiwanese team, Taipei Assasins, claimed victory, defeating South Korean’s Azubu Frost.
A 3-1 victory handed the Taiwanese team $1 million in prize money, with Moscow Five finishing in third place after their playoff win over CLG Europe. Despite this, the tournament will perhaps be remembered for controversy, with issues surrounding the event format, cheating and technical problems. Teams such as reigning champions Fnatic and Azubu Blaze missed out on the tournament, instead choosing to compete at the IGN Pro League 5. As well as this, Azubu Frost player, Jang Gun Woong cheated by viewing the big screen at the Galen Center, with his team receiving a $30,000 fine as a result.
Season 3 Championship
SK Telecom T1’s First World Championship
The Season 3 League of Legends World Championship grand finals were held on the 4th October 2013 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, USA. With 14 of League of Legends top teams taking part, it was Korean organisation SK Telecom T1 who were crowned champions, taking home both the Summoner’s Cup and $1 million in prize money. Other competing teams included Fnatic, Lemondogs, OMG and Gambit Gaming, with SK Telecom seeing off Royal Club 3-0 in the final.
The 2013 World Championship final was viewed by over 32 million people, a dramatic increase from the 2012 finals. As well as this, tickets for the finals sold out in just one hour. As with the Season 2 Championship, Riot Games chose to seed the four teams that were victorious in their respective regional competitions, while other participants battled it out in a group stage, with the top two making it through to the next round. The second round consisted of the winners of regional playoffs taking on the winners of group stages in a best-of-three elimination match.
While SK Telecom and Royal Club finished as winners and runners-up respectively, it was NaJin Black Sword and Fnatic who would end up in third and fourth. SK Telecom T1 remain one of the best League of Legends teams to this day, with the likes of “Peanut”, “Faker” and “Piglet” among the stars on their roster that are still playing today.
2014 World Championship
Riot Games chose to rebrand the competition 2014, changing the name to the League of Legends World Championship. Also unlike previous events, the 2014 tournament was held in various different regions, before the grand finals were held in Seoul, South Korea on October 19th at the Sangam Stadium. The 16 qualifying teams made it through by winning a major professional league, such as the Mid-Season Invitational, or a regional qualifying tournament. Following this, a 16-team round-robin was played out, before the remaining eight teams took part in the knockout stage of the competition.
The competition was once again dominated by Asian teams, with Samsung Galaxy White claiming their first ever LoL World Championships, thanks to a win over StarHorn Royal Club. The semi-finals were all Korean and Chinese affairs, with Samsung Galaxy Blue and Oh My God coming unstuck. A record 40,000 spectators attended the grand finals, along with around 280 million views on television and online throughout the event.
There was more controversy in 2014, with SK Gaming player, Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen causing a storm by acting in a racially insensitive manner whilst playing on the Taiwanese server. The Dane was fined $2,500, as well as being suspended for his team’s opening three matches of the tournament.
You had to look down the standings to Team SoloMid in fifth position in order to find a non-Asian team, with $2 million in prize money shared among all participating teams.
2015 World Championship
Return to Europe
For the first time since its inauguration in 2011, the LoL Worlds schedule returned to Europe in 2014, with the likes of London, Paris, Brussels and Berlin all hosting stages of the competition. International wildcards Bangkok Titans and paIN Gaming joined the usual suspects, however it was SK Telecom T1 who would secure their second world title, defeating South-Korean rivals KOO Tigers in the final.
Despite many expecting a strong challenge from 2011 winners Fanatic, following their 18-0 record in the EU LCS Summer Split, as well as battling it out with SKT T1 over five games at the Mid-Season Invitational, the European team would have to settle for third place, with China’s best also falling short. The likes of Team SoloMid and LGD Gaming finished way off, before SKT T1 defeated KOO Tigers 3-1 at the final in Germany.
The final is estimated to have achieved viewing figures of 36 million, however further controversy and technical issues would once again take centre stage. Cloud9’s Hai Lam was fined $500 for making an offensive hand gesture to an opponent during the group stage, while an in-game bug occurred involving Fnatic’s Kim Ui-Jin, meaning that the contest could not be completed. Riot Games also decided to disable the “Gragas” character, from the rest of the tournament, along with both “Lux” and “Ziggs”.
2016 World Championship
The 2016 League of Legends World Championship was the sixth of its kind, held between September 29-October 29 across the United States. With sixteen teams once again qualifying for the tournament, including those from North America, South Korea, Europe and China, it was SK Telecom T1 who would defend their title from the previous year after the LoL Worlds schedule was all said and done. The South-Korean superstars once again including the likes of “Faker” and “Bengi” in their roster, helping them to narrowly defeat compatriots Samsung Galaxy in the final. Eventually coming out 3-2 winners, SKT T1’s “Faker” was unsurprisingly named tournament MVP, with the team also receiving over $2.6 million in prize money, one of the largest sums in the whole of esports.
Record Viewing Figures
The final was followed by over 43 million people across the world, with its success thought to be vital in prompting those in charge of the Los Angeles bid for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games to include an esports presentation in their pitch. The 2016 World Championships offered the biggest prize pool in League of Legends history, with only “The International” from the world of Dota 2 able to compete with such figures.
SKT T1 became the first 3-time World Champions with their victory, with the growth of the industry being further demonstrated by the $3 million worth of prize money that was contributed by fans via their in-game purchases.
2017 World Championship
After the success of the 2016 event, the LoL Worlds 2017 will be held in four different cities across China, with home teams hoping to perform significantly better than they did in America. With SK Telecom T1 going for a third successive title, coupled with the fact that the South-Korean’s have already won this year’s Mid-Season Invitational, the LoL Worlds 2017 promises to be an explosive affair, with many bidding to end their dominance in the competition.
With the event having added an in-play stage this year, 24 teams, representing 13 professional League of Legends leagues, will do battle between September 23rd and November 4th. Teams from Brazil, China, Europe, Japan, Korea, Latin America, North America, Oceania, South-East Asia, Taiwan and Turkey will make up the competing teams, with some of the best players in the world making up the LoL Worlds schedule this year.
Along with a final at the famous Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing, it remains to be seen as to just how well players, teams and supporters will take to the new format of the competition. However, Riot Games have once again increased the prize money on offer to successful teams, meaning that the 2017 League of Legends World Championships are, once again, set to provide a fitting end to the season.
The odds for this year’s competition are already taking shape, with SK Telecom T1 understandably among the favourites to claim yet another World Championship. However, with the likes of Flash Wolves, Team WE and Samsung Galaxy also sitting pretty in the rankings, the LoL Worlds 2017 could be one of the most unpredictable tournaments in many years.